There’s a perfect storm of arts and culture on San Antonio’s horizon. The City’s Department for Culture & Creative Development (DCCD) will be renamed to reflect its back-to-basics focus on arts advocacy as the Department of Arts and Culture, which will be working closely with the City’s World Heritage Office and Tricentennial Office.

The latter two are relatively new sections in the City’s budget that staff and City Council are stretching to accommodate during its consideration of the $2.5 billion fiscal year 2017 budget. Council had its second budget work session on Wednesday and considered its budgets, arts agency spending, Convention and Visitors Bureau, and other things.

World Heritage Office

The first annual World Heritage Festival will kick off next week on Thursday, Sept. 8, with the San Pedro Creek groundbreaking ceremony and continue through the weekend with music, art, cultural ceremonies, historic tours, a Mission Reach bike ride, and celebratory Masses at the recently designated Missions on Sunday.

The World Heritage Office, a “small but mighty office” as City Manager Sheryl Sculley described it, will have $4.2 million next year according to the proposed budget. The FY 2016 budget provided only $500,000 to establish the office, pay for one position – Director Colleen Swain – and get the ball rolling on the World Heritage Work Plan.

City of San Antonio residents, city officials, and business representatives gathered at Mission San Juan for a conversation about the World Heritage Work Plan on April 5, 2016. Photo by Kathryn Boyd-Batstone
City of San Antonio residents, city officials, and business representatives gathered at Mission San Juan for a conversation about the World Heritage Work Plan on April 5, 2016. Photo by Kathryn Boyd-Batstone

Come Oct. 1, 2016, when FY 2017 starts, Swain will have three staff members to help coordinate $2.8 million in capital projects, implementation of the work plan, public outreach, manage facilities and programming, and establish the World Heritage business incentive fund.

Two community meetings will be held regarding land use surrounding the Missions before zoning amendments are ultimately approved by City Council as more change is on the way for the Southside. The recent controversy over apartments directly adjacent to Mission Concepción have some concerned that developers could deteriorate the existing neighborhoods and businesses.

(Read More: Alliance Cautions Against World Heritage ‘Theme Park’)

Preliminary feedback was gathered at the City’s public symposiums and through a 30-day open house program at public libraries. Comments can still be made online here or by calling the World Heritage Office at 210-207-2111.

Click here to download Swain’s presentation.

(Disclosure: The Rivard Report, a nonprofit, is an organizing partner for the World Heritage Festival.)

Tricentennial Office

Tricentennial celebrations will start in 2018 and have large public art and World Heritage components. The City’s Tricentennial Office, small and mighty by its own right, will add three temporary, full-time positions to its staff of two: CEO Edward Benavides and COO Asia Ciaravino.

To inform the year of celebrations, there are about 40 stakeholders represented in eight different subcommittees that will manage events and coordination of Arts & Culture, Music, Public Art, Community Service, Events, History & Education, Marketing & Branding, and Tricentennial Exhibition.

(Read More: Tricentennial Celebrations Will Be ‘Very Different From Fiesta)

If approved, the proposed $1.8 million budget would come from the Convention & Sports Facilities FY 2016 fund balance ($1.07 million), the Arts & Culture Fund ($280,000) which is supported by the Hotel Occupancy Tax (HOT), and additional projected allocations from the HOT ($460,000).

Click here to download Benavides’ presentation.

The timeline exhibition will likely be housed in the Centro de Artes building, where the Tricentennial staff will be headquartered for the next two and a half years. Staff will move back into the building by next week, Benavides said, and they are considering plans to turn the building into a permanent Visitor & Information Center after the Tricentennial.

Centro De Artes formerly known as Museo Alameda is a staple for Latino art. Photo by Scott Ball.
Centro De Artes, formerly known as Museo Alameda, is a staple for Latino art. Photo by Scott Ball.

A public input meeting will be held later this month to decide what the future of Centro de Artes will look like. Meeting details will be announced soon, according to City staff.

The Tricentennial will have an emphasis on public art with a $5.5 million in-kind support from a 1% allocation from the 2012 Municipal Bond.

“It’s public art that’s yet to be designed or developed so we’re leveraging that opportunity to brand those public art pieces (for the) Tricentennial,” Benavides said. “It’s not new money, it’s existing funding.”

Councilman Joe Krier (D9) questioned the process behind selecting artists for projects across the city, citing the so-called “million dollar cheese grater” that was produced by a London-based artist for the Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center’s new lobby.

“My concern with the great cheese grater project is spending a million dollars, putting it on a boat, and sending it to London, England,” Krier said, “when I think we have a lot of fabulous Texas artists and San Antonio artists who would have loved to have that kind of money spent on them.

“I know we have a process and I know we have citizen committees but in my opinion they have not been doing a very good job,” he added.

Benavides explained that the process would be closely coordinated with Public Art San Antonio and the San Antonio Arts Commission, which is comprised of citizens involved in the art community who are appointed by the Mayor and City Council members.

“We’ll work with Debbie and review that process,” Benevides said, referring to DCCD interim Director Debbie Racca-Sittre.

The New Department of Arts & Culture

The current DCCD call for artists, which closes on Sept. 12, will have a “heavy focus on local artists,” Racca-Sittre told City Council.

In a phone interview after the meeting, Racca Sittre said she understands Krier’s hesitancy with such large sums of money, but the idea that all that money was shipped overseas is “not really 100% accurate.” Even foreign arts selected require the work of local engineers, architects, and fabricators.

“When we bring an internationally known artist (to San Antonio),” she said, “we need to pair those artists with local artists and local craftsmen. … The idea would be that when that artist goes back to New York or wherever, he’s going to remember that person from San Antonio and they get known around the country (and world), too.”

By accepting regional, national, and international work into San Antonio and paying for it, there’s a return on investment because local artists are connected to those communities.

A member of the San Antonio film community considers changes to the Strategic Plan. Photo by James McCandless.
A member of the San Antonio film community considers changes to the SA Film Commission’s Strategic Plan during a public meeting on Aug. 25, 2016. Photo by James McCandless.

Of the $10.8 million proposed budget, about $6.2 million will be divvied up between 51 art agencies, and the San Antonio Film Commission will receive an increase of funding to total $800,000.

(Read More: SA Film Commission’s Strategic Plan Maps Out ‘Vision’ for Local Industry)

A majority of Council members welcomed changing the DCCD’s name, which is considered cumbersome and forgettable.

“It’s about time,” Treviño said. “I couldn’t keep up wit the other one.”

The department was established as the Office of Cultural Affairs in 1983 and changed to DCCD in 2013 because it had taken on a management role of several arts and culture-related facilities such as La Villita and Market Square. Now that they are under the Center City Development & Operations Department‘s purview, Racca-Sittre said, the name can be changed again to more accurately reflect its focus and responsibilities.

“When City Council adopts the budget, it’ll be official,” and the name will change to the Department of Arts & Culture, Racca-Sittre said.

“The department is refocusing,” she added, “I really want the department to focus on being an advocate for the arts, and marketing is key.”

Instead of one person dedicated to public information for the new Department of Arts & Culture, there will be four. Those positions are currently vacant.

“We’re on the cusp of some great assets of arts and culture,” Racca-Sittre said, noting the World Heritage designation and festival along with the Tricentennial. “They’re going to take hold and it’s going to be huge. The best we’ve every seen for arts and culture.”

Renaming the Alamodome?

The Alamodome, a view from the Market Street underpass. Photo by Iris Dimmick.
The Alamodome, a view from the Market Street underpass. Photo by Iris Dimmick.

About 53% of the proposed $43.7 million Convention & Sports Facilities (CSF) budget will go toward maintenance and operations. The department has several goals that include facilities improvements at the Convention Center and Alamodome, implementing the Convention and Visitors Bureau’s move to become a nonprofit, and pursuing “revenue enhancements.” One enhancement that made several Council members’ ears perk up during the four-hour meeting was the possibility of selling off the naming rights for the Alamodome.

“The timing is good since we’re doing improvements,” said CSF Director Michael Sawaya.

The “book value” of the exclusive naming right to signage and other marketing material is estimated at $1 million per year, Sawaya said.

If an offer is made, he said, “we’re going to present that to you to look at … then we’ll have a decision to make.”

Click here to download Sawaya’s presentation.

The Development Services Department will have a proposed $46.7 million budget next year. Code Enforcement continues on a positive trend toward faster compliance timelines and more proactive citations. That is, properties are being cleaned and brought up to code faster, and code enforcement officers are seeking out more violations than people are calling in to report bad neighbors. Download the presentation here.

Parks & Recreation interim Director Xavier Urrutia also presented his department’s $98 million proposed budget that focuses on making connections between communities and greenspaces. Click here to download his presentation.

Top image: The Tricentennial Commission celebrates the future 300th birthday of San Antonio with inflated balloons during the 2016 Fiesta Flambeau Parade.  Photo by Scott Ball.  

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Iris Dimmick

Senior Reporter Iris Dimmick covers public policy pertaining to social issues, ranging from affordable housing and economic disparity to policing reform and workforce development. Contact her at